Preparing for a healthy pregnancy and Improving health will benefit the people in many ways and benefits too for couples who are trying to have a baby. Healthy lifestyle improves the fertility and may increase the chances of successful treatment.
Preparing for a healthy pregnancy
How can I improve my health and fitness before my treatment?
This is a commonly asked question so we have put together some advice for both men and women to help you improve your health and fitness.
- • The most important thing you can do if you smoke is – give up!
- • We know this is easier said than done but many research studies have shown the harmful effects of smoking on sperm quality, egg quality and implantation rates for fertilized eggs.
- • Smoking affects many aspects of your general health such as increased risk of cancer, heart disease, lung disease and premature ageing.
- • Passive smoking can affect partners and other people.
- • Smoking is an expensive way to damage your health!
Achieve a healthy body weight
- • A healthy weight for height is referred to as a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI).
- • You can check your BMI using the enclosed chart.
- • It is important that you are both as near to your ideal BMI as possible.
- • Being overweight or underweight can cause general health problems but can also affect your fertility.
- • Aim for a BMI of between 21 and 30 (ideally 21 to 25).
If you need help achieving your ideal weight, then contact your GP for a referral to a dietitian. Note: Healthy weight loss is a slow, gradual process. As you wait for your treatment – use this time wisely A loss of 1-2 lb (0.5-1.0 kg) per week is adequate
Take Regular Exercise
- • Regular exercise improves physical fitness, helps you to lose weight and decreases stress levels.
- • Aim for some form of ‘Aerobic exercise’ three times per week, i.e. any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or sporting activities like football, tennis or squash.
- • You do not need to join an expensive club or buy lots of equipment to get enough exercise. A brisk twenty-minute walk two to three times per week can be beneficial.
- Using stairs instead of using lifts/escalators and walking to the shops can all make a difference and will improve your fitness.
Reduce your alcohol intake
- • Excessive alcohol reduces fertility and damages sperm.
- • For general health purposes the safe limits are up to 14 units per week for both men and women.
- • It is better to have one to two units occasionally rather than saving them all up for one night!
- • However, men and women trying for a baby should limit alcohol intake to no more than 6 units per week for men and women should avoid alcohol completely.
Drink Plenty of Water
- • Studies suggest that excessive caffeine can reduce your fertility – tea, coffee, cola and ‘energy’ drinks e.g. Red Bull has high caffeine. Try to reduce caffeine in your diet and also drink more water.
- • When you are having your treatment cycles we will suggest that you avoid caffeine altogether.
Follow a Healthy Eating Plan
- • Eat regular meals.
- • Eat similar foods to the rest of the family.
- • Enjoy your food.
- • Eat a wide variety of different foods.
Why is healthy eating important?
- • Eating healthy food makes you to achieve and maintain a body weight.
- • It ensures your body has sufficient vitamins and minerals – essential for men and women trying to conceive.
- • It ensures your body has enough energy for all your daily activities.
Eat More Fruit and Vegetables
- • Fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- • If you are trying to lose weight fruit makes an excellent snack or dessert.
- • Choose fresh, frozen or tinned.
- • Examples of a portion are:
- • 1 apple, pear, banana.
- • 1 slice of melon or pineapple.
- • 2 plums or satsumas.
- • 1 cup of strawberries/raspberries.
- • 2 tablespoonful of vegetables (raw, cooked, frozen or canned).
- • 1 dessert bowl of salad.
Fill up on starchy foods:
- • This includes bread, cereals and potatoes.
- • Try wholegrain varieties where possible, for example, whole meal bread, bran flakes etc.
- • These are higher in vitamins and minerals and also help to fill you up – so you are less tempted to snack between meals.
Meat, fish and alternatives:
- • These foods are important for protein and iron as well as other nutrients.
- • Vegetarians should include pulses, beans or nuts to replace meat or fish.
- • Take care with fat content of meat or fish – especially if trying to reduce your weight.
- • Milk, cheese and yoghurt are important for calcium, protein and other nutrients.
- • Choose low fat varieties as much as possible, for example, skimmed milk, cottage cheese or low fat yoghurt (especially if trying to lose weight).
- • Low fat varieties have more calcium.
- • Many snack and convenience foods such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits, burgers, cakes, crisps and pastries contain lots of fat and sugar.
- • They are low in vitamins and minerals and high in calories, so should only be eaten occasionally.
- • Added fats e.g., butter, oils and margarine, should be used sparingly.
Take Folic Acid
- • It is strongly recommended that women take 400µg of folic acid per day, for 3 months before pregnancy and until 12 weeks after you conceive.
- • Good dietary sources of folic acid include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified bread, sprouts, spinach, Bovril and oranges.
Do I need to take any other supplements?
Please seek advice from a pharmacist before taking any other vitamin supplements or herbal remedies.
Want to know more?
Ask your GP to refer you to a State Registered Dietitian, or you can contact 8801233333.
Improving Sperm Quality
The effect of heat
The normal activity of the sperm producing tubules in the testes is affected by heat. Intermittent overheating of the testes leads to a reduction in sperm production and/or a decrease in sperm activity (motility). The testes are situated in the scrotum mainly because it is cooler there than inside the body cavity. The testes have their own heat regulating mechanism so that in cold conditions the scrotum contracts, pulling the testes closer to the body, whereas in hot conditions the testes hang much lower. Overheating of the testes can be caused in various ways:
- • Soaking in hot baths.
- • Working in a high environmental temperature.
- • Jacuzzis or saunas.
- • Wearing tight or support underwear.
Illness associated with fever have a tendency of reducing fertility but temporarily. Remember that sperm take 70 days to develop from their cells of origin, thus any episode of testicular overheating could affect your fertility for over two months.
To improve your fertility, you should:
- • Avoid hot baths, Jacuzzis and saunas and change to having showers or lukewarm baths.
- • Wear non-support, non-insulating cotton boxer shorts.
There is some evidence to suggest that in some cases the taking of zinc and vitamin E can improve sperm quality.
The use of certain medications, including anabolic steroids or recreational drugs such as marijuana can affect your sperm quality. If you are taking any medication, please discuss this with the staff.
Cope with Stress
Our Team knows couples undergoing infertility treatment experiences an extremely stressfulness. However, it is not stress itself that causes problems but the way in which an individual respond to it. Without positive ways of dealing with stress a couple undergoing infertility treatment may experience some very negative symptoms such as:
- • Insomnia.
- • Fatigue – constant lack of energy.
- • Anxiety.
- • Inability to concentrate for long.
- • Mood swings.
- • Depression.
Our staff helps the couples to avoid the stress and its symptoms. For this reason, we recommend that you give some thought now as to the coping mechanisms you currently employ to deal with stress. Some ways to get away with stress are
- • Yoga.
- • Physical exercise – swimming, running etc.
- • Learning how to relax – using tapes, books, videos.
- • Stress management courses.
- • Support – building your own network using friends, family, counsellors.